Notes and Editorial Reviews
Sonata No. 60 in C,
Variations on a Theme by Corelli.
Piano Sonata No. 7
Luká? Vondrá?ek (pn)
TWOPIANISTS 1039176 (54:08)
Luká? Vondrá?ek is an enormously talented pianist, born in 1986 in Czechoslovakia and currently living in the United States. Granted, he doesn’t offer anything
exceptional in the way of technique. Of course, as we’d expect from a young contest winner these days (especially one who studied with Ashkenazy), his playing is rock-solid—notable especially for its expert voicing and its unfailing precision with respect to accents, touch, and rhythm. Still, in the context of Hamelin, he’s no super-virtuoso; and in the context of, say, Volodos or Misha Daci? (see
36:6), he’s no fire-eater, either. Rather, what makes him stand apart is an imagination that leads him to fairly individualistic interpretations combining qualities not always found together.
Thus, as is clear from the first measures of the Haydn, he’s a highly interventionist pianist, ready to apply his own ideas about articulation and especially tempo. I wouldn’t call him fussy, largely because his sense of long-range dynamics and pacing gives his performances a strong sense of momentum. But he’s surely got a strong improvisatory streak in the sense that he’s always willing to startle you with an unexpected detail or, more often still, with an elasticity that throws you off balance.
Yet you could hardly call him a romantic at heart. For even when he’s engaged in the most extreme tempo-bending (say, the finale of the Haydn, Rachmaninoff’s Variation 13, or the transition into the second theme of the first movement of the Prokofiev), his playing is fairly cool, if not severe. Thus, while his performance of Rachmaninoff’s Variation 15 is reasonably winsome, this is not the place to go if you want to bask in Rachmaninoff’s lyricism; nor, as is obvious from his reading of the Eighth Variation, does he really make his mark in his appreciation of harmonic flavor. Rhythm and texture are key here; and you’re more liable to remember his
for his artful handling of the bass line in the First Variation (where he perfectly weights its rhythmic competition with the melody), his superb syncopations in the Sixth, or his bite in the 11th than for any sensuousness in the Intermezzo or the Coda. Similarly, despite the excellent sense of desolation at the end of the movement, his performance of the
of the Seventh Sonata tends to be hard in a way that discounts the richness of Prokofiev’s writing.
In sum, a solid pianist with a strong streak of invention—and while he doesn’t quite hold up to the great pianists who have tackled this repertoire (including, among many others, Richter and Hamelin in the Haydn; Primakov, Pompa-Baldi, and Wild in the Rachmaninoff; and Richter and Horowitz in the Prokofiev), this well-engineered disc has its own rewards, and can be recommended especially warmly as an introduction to a pianist from whom I expect to hear a lot.
FANFARE: Peter J. Rabinowitz
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